Chennai: A man employed by the SRM,  Kattangulathur Campus Chennai, allegedly masturbated in front of a 2nd-year girl inside the M block, SRM University Hostel lift at 3 pm on the 22nd of November, which was immediately reported by the victim to the Guards and authorities at the Hostel reception.

The student had taken the elevator to go up to the 6th floor, while the accused was already inside the elevator. Once the student had entered the elevator and the door had closed, the accused started masturbating at the victim. Even as the victim tried to stop the elevator and get out, the man blocked her path. Once the elevator stopped at the fourth floor, the victim screamed and ran out, looking for help.

The perpetrator, according to students, was a worker in the campus, who regularly uses the elevator and has access to the hostels in the campus.

Based on CCTV footage, the victim had managed to positively identify the accused. Despite identifying the accused, the Hostel Management refused to act and asked the victim to stay mum about the matter.  According to TheNewsMinute, it took two to three hours for the authorities to scourge through the CCTV camera footage to identify the perpetrator. It was only then that the hostel warden believed the student’s story. The initial reaction of the Hostel Warden had appeared to question the dress the students were wearing, allege that they drink and smoke all day in the hostel, and resort to victim blaming. As per sources who are aware of the matter, the Warden had initially disregarded the entire incident and stated that it happened to cause the victim was a north Indian, in a South Indian college. Similarly, the Registrar had also apparently questioned her character.

Angered at the reaction of the authorities, the students of the SRM Kattangulathur campus came out in protests outside their hostels, demanding that an FIR be filed and affirmative action be taken. As of late on Thursday night, the students are still out on the campus asking the university management to file a police complaint about the incident.

According to the students, the Management response to the protests has been as horrific as the original incident.  The college official who was handling the situation allegedly asked the students to start moving towards the auditorium to talk things out but instead on the way got into a security cabin and locked himself up and refused to come out until some local rowdies, who were clearly not campus security and from outside the campus, turned up armed with sticks and knives.

The Vice-Chancellor ultimately met the students but instead of supporting the students, he had allegedly resorted to victim shaming. According to some students who were present in the meeting the VC said that there were no witnesses and no one could go to the Court, that the victim was lying and no one could prove otherwise.

It is also important to note that while the SRM University website does mention that it has constituted an Internal Complaints Committee and has the names of its members displayed, the ICC does not have an external member which is legally mandated under Section 4(2)(c) of the POSH Act, 2013, thus making the ICC, in effect defunct.

Despite reports of its initial apathetic reaction, the SRM senior management soon took action, and as per sources were instrumental in helping and encouraging the female student to file the FIR which led to the culprit being arrested. In an official Press Release by the University, they admitted the lapses in their security and apologized for the entire incident, promising to relook into the entire campus security of the students. All exams were held successfully post the immediate arrest of the culprit and all students have headed home for their semester break and normalcy has returned to the campus for now.

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